Leicester City vs Southampton match report: Saints hold champions but lack killer blow in King Power stalemate
Life is different for Leicester City this season. The party is over and their physical and emotional energy is being poured into their Champions League campaign. The Premier League routine does not have the same feel here, not now that they have conquered it and moved on to other things.
Leicester’s rivals see them differently too, they know their tricks and are determined not to fall for them. Their secrets are out and no-one wants to get duped again, not in the same way they did last year. You cannot make history and still go under the radar.
That is why Leicester are finding it harder this year. Why they have now only won two of their seven league games so far, leaving them 12th in the table, ahead of Bournemouth thanks to less negative goal difference. And why they could only draw this game 0-0 with Southampton, barely creating a good goalscoring chance.
In games like this last year, Leicester would sit back, wait, then rip through their opponents on the counter. This season visitors to the King Power are savvier, as Claude Puel’s Southampton were here. Leicester had less space against a well-organised Saints team, and did not have many ideas about what to do with it.
The only moment when Leicester looked like scoring all afternoon was from one Saints mistake. Virgil van Dijk, otherwise impeccable, underhit a pass back to Fraser Forster. Jamie Vardy ran onto it, but Oriol Romeu recovered to tackle. Leaping back up, Romeu blocked Vardy’s follow-up shot and then another from Islam Slimani on the rebound.
It took a double change in the second half, with Demarai Gray and Shinji Okazaki thrown on, for Leicester have any extra spark. Slimani had a header tipped onto the post by Forster, before Okazaki headed wide of the far post from a Gray cross. Beyond that there was very little creativity, not much energy or even purpose. The only good passing move Leicester put together all game ended with Leonardo Ulloa shooting tamely over the bar. And that was the last move of the match.
Southampton were the better team, and were even more impressive for having drawn 0-0 at Hapoel Beer Sheva in Israel on Thursday night. They were solid, that one slip from Van Dijk aside, and showed more quality and ideas on the ball than Leicester ever did. It will be difficult to combine domestic and European commitments this season, but here they showed that there should be no sense of alarm.
Claude Puel came here with a clever plan, using Nathan Redmond as his centre forward, with Charlie Austin hanging wide on the left of the front three. Austin was dangerous with his elusive movement and had Saints’ only two real first-half chances. First, a header in the box from Cedric Soares’ cross, that he could not direct away from Kasper Schmeichel. Then, a brilliant volley from Steven Davis’ chipped pass, which beat Schmeichel, but not the inside of the far post.
Saints knew that they did not have much to fear even here, at the home of the champions, and their confidence grew the more they saw of their insipid hosts. Into the second half Saints were dominating possession for long spells, cleverly orchestrated by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, with Romeu sat behind him to impose order if Leicester broke through. They found it easier than expected to create chances and should have scored a goal to win the game.
Redmond showed why Puel had moved him inside, wriggling his way between Huth and Morgan, but unable to beat Schmeichel down at his near post. Then Redmond slid a pass to Austin, through on goal, but when Schmeichel darted out of goal, Austin’s chip did not have enough lift on it. Schmeichel could pluck it out of the sky.
One good last chance fell to James Ward-Prowse, shooting over from the edge of the box, sending Puel reeling in frustration. Southampton had nothing to fear here against Leicester and should have won it. Puel clearly knew it.